December 31, 2015: Belmont steps out in 2015

Belmont Citizen-Herald: December 31, 2015

Belmont was a town of steps in 2015. Steps forward; steps backward. Fast steps and slow steps. Steps through record snowfalls.

Exceptionally fast steps were seen at Belmont High this year, as the girl’s track team won its first conference championship in forty years. Led by Julia Cella and Megan Alper in the sprints, Samantha Kelts and Marley Williams in the triple jump, and Claudia Tenner and Kayla Magno in the hurdles, the Marauders didn’t just win, they dominated.

The track team was not the only group of high-steppin’ high schoolers. The annual BHS musical this spring featured dancing in Anything Goes that left theatre patrons abuzz. In addition to congratulating the students, however, let’s also take a moment to thank Jenny Lifson for a job well-done. She not only choreographed the show, but she then also taught the kids how to dance with the skill and energy that so captivated the audience.

A look at BHS theatre in 2015 would not be complete without acknowledging The Laramie Project. The play presented the true story of a small town coming to grips with the hate-induced violence leading to the brutal murder of a young gay man. The performance was powerful in a way atypical of high school theatre. Particular kudos go to Ezra Flam, director of the BHS Performing Arts Company, who brought the play to Belmont to challenge and stretch both his students and the community.

Not all decisions in Belmont this year were steps forward. The Board of Selectmen stepped backward on a proposed community path when it ignored hundreds of hours of research and deliberation by its own Advisory Committee and decided instead to include one path alternative in the engineering study that had been found to be neither safe nor practical. The real impact of the BOS decision to study a “community path” that traverses a lane on Concord Ave. is to slow down, and possibly derail, a project that the community as a whole both wants and needs.

One project that did move forward in 2015 was construction of the new Belmont Light substation. In the midst of a year of public turmoil over Belmont Light’s “net metering” solar policy, general manager Jim Palmer, along with former Selectman Ralph Jones, quietly made sure the substation moved toward completion. While not a glamorous initiative in any sense, the substation will both help ensure reliable electricity, and reduce electricity costs, to Belmont residents. Frequently, it is the nitty-gritty work, rather than those decisions most publicly debated, that have the greatest impact on the town’s residents.

Many considered last April’s over-ride approval a step forward for the schools. The added revenue, however, also meant that the budget for sidewalk repair increased by 1300% over prior years, thus making steps easier for Belmont residents throughout town. The Belmont Street/Trapelo Road construction ground toward completion, while the Cushing Village development remained a hole in the ground. Compromise was reached on green space in Belmont Center, even while the Center’s businesses continued to suffer due to the long-term construction.

May we never forget to thank those people doing the hard work to make some of Belmont’s annual events seem routine. Town Moderator Mike Widmer ushered Town Meeting through its annual decision-making. Jennifer Page and Sara Oaklander organized another successful “Meet Belmont” gathering. The Payson Park Music Festival again offered summer entertainment and delight. The Foundation for Belmont Education crowned a new spelling bee champion.

As we remember 2015, and wonder what 2016 might bring, we should remember Abraham Lincoln’s counsel that “the best way to predict your future is to create it.”

Happy holidays to all.

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